All About Columns


Adjusting Column Widths

In many programs, what you see on the screen is presented in columns. Good examples of this are spreadsheets (Microsoft Excel and Apple’s Numbers) and mail readers (Microsoft Entourage and Apple’s Mail.app). Adjusting these columns isn’t necessarily obvious, so here is how  you do it:

Place your cursor carefully on the dividing line between the column headings (Mail.app’s headings are shown below, but the idea is the same regardless of the application).

The cursor will change into a vertical line with horizontal arrows coming from each side. An enlarged picture of the cursor is shown.

When the cursor changes, you can drag horizontally. Doing so makes the column to the left of your cursor wider or narrower.

What is interesting about this activity is watching the computer scramble to rewrite it’s information to fit the space you give it. For example, as you make the Date Received column narrower, “Monday, November 2, 2009, 1:43 PM” Shrinks first to “Mon, Nov 2, 2009, 1:43 PM” to “11/2/09, 1:43 PM and finally to the terse “11/2/09.”

Rearranging Columns in Mail.app and Entourage.

Once you’ve adjusted the width of each column, you might want to change which columns are shown or the order in which the columns are shown. This is slightly different in each application, but the general idea is the same.

Mail.app: To change the order of the columns, place the cursor over the column header and the cursor will change to  a hand. Click and hold; then drag horizontally to change the order. To add or remove columns, use the View menu and choose Columns and then check or uncheck the columns you want to add or remove. To change the sort order, click on the column header to reverse the sort. Click again to sort the opposite way.

Entourage: Entourage makes this confusing, because depending on where your preview pane is the functionality changes. If your preview pane is on the right, you will not have the option to change the columns, but only to change the the sort method. If your preview pane is below, then you can change the order of the columns by clicking and dragging horizontally (you’ll see the hand cursor); change the sort order by clicking on the column header, and choose which columns are shown in the View -> Columns menu.

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